I was in the middle of writing this article, and ended up talking with a man in the gym about how he was in a rush to finish his workout to get home for dinner. The conversation ended up with him saying that he was the one that had to be home to make dinner for his wife. He spoke about how they work together as a team—doing household chores that the other one doesn’t like. He said he would never settle, and not be married, if he had not found the right person for him. It sounded like he and his wife were a good team, and have figured each other out pretty well.
We all grew up learning different patterns and different ways of living, or what life looks like, and what we’ve ended up expecting it to be all about. In a relationship, it is helpful to understand things like your partner’s background, values, “sore spots” and how each responds to things--finding a healthy balance of adding to each other’s lives. How can you come together on a common ground, with an understanding of why each other responds the way they do--and be willing to adjust for them? We are where we’ve been, but to work together for the benefit of having a healthy relationship in the here and now, is key. We may have started out in a relationship that seemed healthy at the time that later turned out unhealthy. That is where couples counseling can be of benefit.
Practice healthy communication. The first thing I learned that I’d need to do, entering into my chosen field, was to listen. I was going to have to be able to give people my full attention. Everyone has the need to be heard, and I know my clients appreciate having someone to go to. In the same sense, both you and your partner will be more open once they feel heard. A good practice is to talk in person, when both are ready. Something to note that may be better to avoid is having a serious conversation by texting, where things can be misconstrued. I have seen this end a lot of relationships—romantic or otherwise.
One way to actively improve your communication is by using, “I statements”. Using I statements can take away from one feeling blamed or becoming defensive. Talk with your partner starting with the word, “I”, followed by how you are feeling. As a comparison--instead of, “You never listen to me.” That sentence could be changed to, “When you don’t listen to what I’m saying, I feel unloved and ignored.” It will take practice, but your relationship can greatly benefit from healthy communication.
The walk-away technique. When you have a dispute, and emotions are running high, it is not the best time to try and resolve a conflict. This technique is a step-by-step process. First, you and your partner have to agree together that when you are having any kind of argument, that either of you can walk away temporarily from the situation, so neither of you say things you may regret later. You could go to a separate room, meet with a friend, go have something to eat, go for a walk—whatever might be a good place to settle your mind. Second, if you are the one walking away (and your partner would do the same) tell your partner about how much time you think you may need. If that time is not enough for you to reunite with them, stay in touch with them so they know you do care about the relationship. This might be a time when a simple text is okay. Third, repeat staying in touch with them at a time you specify, until you feel ready to return. It may be for the night at a friend or family member’s house if needed. It is better to stay away for the night, than to come back and pick up an argument while you both are still not in a place to calmly discuss things. Fourth, once you or your partner do come together, do not speak about the concern for at least 24-hours. This is a time of just relating on a calm level, simply relating--maybe making dinner together. Lastly, once you have related calmly for that 24-hour period, let your partner know that you feel ready to talk about it, and ask if they are too. Remember to go back to I statements so neither of you feel blamed. The goal is always for the benefit of the relationship.
Create trust. This may seem simple, yet it is big if there is not trust between two people in a relationship. Without trust, it is hard to feel safe. If there are reasons to not trust your partner, this may be something you have to evaluate if you are able to authentically forgive, and both of you are able to move forward in your relationship. (Please note that I am not addressing physical or mental safety in this writing.) When trust is something that needs to be regained, this can go back to healthy communication. If you both can come to a place where you work on understanding what may have happened, how it affected both of you, and how you can resolve the concern in order to move forward, trust can be regained.
There is no I in team. Being , “on the same page”, working towards the same goals can only benefit of your relationship. Being in a long-lasting relationship is a commitment to each other. If you are both working towards the same goal together, for the benefit of a lasting relationship, you will end up feeling more like a team--with a partner that will support you through your best times and your worst times. As with anything, support is always of help.
Have your own interests. It’s important to still have your own, “self” and interests to identify with, while still being part of a couple. It can be nice to have both things at the same time. You can read more about this from a prior article: https://www.amyenklingcounseling.com/blog/2017/10/11/codependencyfinding-balance-between-giving-to-your-partner-and-giving-to-yourself
Roll with each other’s changes. One thing I learned from my family counseling professor that stuck with me is: Sometimes the things you most liked about your partner that attracted you to their personality initially can be the very same thing that you end up not liking later. People’s personalities are usually set by a certain age, but it does not mean that we do not change over time, or that those aspects of our partner’s personality is now something that we now don’t like so much. Can you both find ways to adjust as you move forward?
The way you were when you first entered into your relationship could change when one or the other person goes through different life phases, life changes, and life events. We truly cannot change and remain the same after going through what life may bring. Can you also find ways to move with each other’s changes? Being able to move with each other’s changes is what some long-lasting couples that I’ve spoken with have contributed to their having a happy, healthy, lasting relationship.
Into me see. This is another way to look at the idea of intimacy. As alluded to above, to be able to understand where each other is coming from, and being intimate--both mentally and physically--is what makes for a deep, meaningful relationship. Just the act of the gentleman at the gym enjoying cooking dinner for his wife is a caring act that suggests that intimacy is most likely in that relationship. What would make you feel closer to your partner? What do you know about your partner that would make them feel closer to you? Having someone that you are deeply intimate with gives you not only a sense of safety, but surely of love and belonging, which are human needs.
Being in a relationship is a choice. Being able to work through the tough times is a choice. Hopefully, if you’re choosing to be in a relationship, and are willing to work through the tough times; these ideas will help you to do so. Isn’t it nice to know that either partner can enjoy a gesture of being proud to make their partner dinner?
Always feel free to share any of my writings with someone you feel could benefit from it. If there are parts that resonated with you that you feel you need assistance working out with your partner, please reach out.
1. Practice healthy communication.
2. The walk-away technique.
3. Create trust.
4. There is no I in team.
5. Have your own interests.
6. Roll with each other’s changes.
7. Into me see.